a mother

  • Feb 26, 2010
Yesterday, just yesterday, I went to lunch with friends.

I’m still in the mode where I struggle to get dressed every day, so it took a phone call from Jennie— “your attendance is non-negotiable” and Erik gently pushing me towards the shower before I began the drive to American Fork.

These are my Segullah friends– a group of immensely talented, thoughtful and educated women who waste little time on small talk. Their accomplishments are staggering: several have published books, many teach university courses and most of them hold advanced degrees. As I sat by my poet and novelist friend Darlene, the subject came up of Mary going to school next year and my opportunity to advance to the ‘next stage.’

“I don’t think I will,” I mused, “with six children and their age spread and various needs I’m stretched to my limit. Going to graduate school next year would be devastating for my children. They need me. And the truth is I may never get to the ‘next stage.’ By the time I’ve taught Mary the piano and tutored Gabriel through AP European History, I’ll have grandchildren to care for.”

I leaned back in my seat and brushed my too long bangs from my eyes, “And I want to be a wonderful, magical, available grandma. I don’t know if I’ll ever find time for anything else.”

Now, let me be clear that my decision shouldn’t be anyone else’s decision. Darlene is going to graduate school next fall and I fully support her. As she said (and I love her for it), “Four kids is not the same as six.” And it’s not. Sometimes I think we mothers of many try to pretend that it is the same and we make ourselves crazy. And well, I can’t keep up with some mothers of eight. My capabilities are different. I need a life with wide margins.

Darlene looked at me in her thoughtful way and said, “I can feel the strength of your conviction. You know where you should be, You know what you should do. Don’t ignore that.”

“I’m not.” I assured her. “With every beat of my heart I know that what I am doing matters. But–,” I waved my hand toward the intelligent vibrant women sitting around me, “sometimes I feel apologetic that I’m not producing more.”

Just then, my beautiful friend Sharlee walked into the restaurant with a guest– I didn’t have a moment of hesitation as I recalled where I’d met her friend before. It was on this rainy day:

in Munich, at church, two weeks after my mother died. We spoke for several minutes after the meeting, not just because we were both Americans in a German-speaking ward, but because she’s the sort of woman that I’d want to get to know anywhere, anytime.

As they sat at the table, Sharlee said, “This is my friend Melissa, the poet.” And then my mind spun into focus on the other place I’d seen her name before, on a poem, published in Segullah last year on the death of her 18 year old son. I could see the poem in my mind; recall the page it lay on and the unusual spacing of the words. And I remembered the pain in my chest the first time I’d read it; the sharp intake of breath and the grief of a mother over her first born son.

Melissa was in Utah (she lives in Munich) to commemorate what would have been her son’s 21st birthday with family. I marveled that we met at our separate points of grief. We talked about the complexities of mourning and as the restaurant cleared out she began to tell of the death of her son- the spot in the Idaho canal nicknamed “the meatgrinder,” the friend that was caught in the current, the way her son dove in again and again to save the other boy (who lived), and her beautiful boy washing over the falls, his body already turning blue.

It was his first week at college– a summer course called Freshman Academy– and thankfully, gratefully, Melissa was in town to see her oldest son starting school. She’s hugged him just the day before and he was meaty and alive, on his toes bouncing to a rap song and pointing out the girl he thought was cute– a girl that they had to pry from his body as the paramedics placed him in the ambulance.

I listened with tears running down my cheeks, sometimes hiding my face in my hands. I wept for her and for myself– I simply can’t imagine losing my 18 year old son just as he is on the cusp of every great life adventure.

There’s no doubt that I appreciate my children, no day goes by without hugs and good conversation. But I also rely on my hope for their future. I talk blithely of next year and the year after that. Ben’s mission and eventual marriage and grandchildren are something I take for granted.

We hugged and cried and I drove home weary and shaken. Ben and Stefan were already home and I told them of my encounter with Melissa (they remembered her too). Rifling through the papers on my desk I pulled out the Segullah issue with her poem and we read it out loud.

The words, as you can imagine, were even more powerful this time. But it was the last sentence of Melissa’s short author’s bio that took my breath away, “Since the summer of 2007 when her eldest son lost his life saving a friend, she has learned things about motherhood that have driven even deeper her belief that raising a child to the Lord is the most she could ever ask from life.”
And there is my answer, I know that raising my children is what I should be doing right here, right now. I don’t need anything more.


February 28, 2010

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35 Comments

  1. Reply

    Selwyn

    February 27, 2010

    Goosebumps and tears.

    Beautiful. L,K

  2. Reply

    Chelle

    February 27, 2010

    wow. amazing post, friend.

  3. Reply

    Linn

    February 27, 2010

    Tears.

    I don’t need anything more.

    Neither do I.

    And I am so grateful.

  4. Reply

    crissy

    February 27, 2010

    Beautiful.

  5. Reply

    Jeanelle

    February 27, 2010

    I know you don’t know it but you are truly an inspiration.

  6. Reply

    Kerri

    February 27, 2010

    Thank you, Michelle. I just read the poem. Your post softened my heart, and the poem wrenched it. I’m at a crossroads, too, and feel pushed in a certain direction, but find myself torn about which way to go. It will take faith to make either choice, maybe more than I have right now, so I’m kind of sitting on a fence. I don’t like fence-sitting. I like moving forward. But I just don’t know if I have the strength to move forward. I want more than anything to be the parent to my children that they need, that Heavenly Father intends me to be. But it is SO HARD.

    I’m always grateful for your insights and beautiful words. They are balm to my heart more than you can know.

  7. Reply

    Cath

    February 27, 2010

    Thank you for tenderly reminding us of the grand purposes behind God and His unusual ways. Your embrace of motherhood – now – inspires me.

    And Melissa’s poem? Took my breath away. Made me weep.

  8. Reply

    Claudia

    February 27, 2010

    I love you for that.

  9. Reply

    La Yen

    February 27, 2010

    I don’t know how you do it, but you always post right when I need it. Thank you.

  10. Reply

    Travelin'Oma

    February 27, 2010

    I love being reminded of the truths I know.

  11. Reply

    Tasha

    February 27, 2010

    I don’t think you know me, but your sister is in my home ward and recommended your blog to me. It has become one of my favorites.

    Funny, I am feeling the same way today. I am a BYU student, and while so many around me are going onto Grad School and encourage me to do the same, I feel that it is not for me – God needs me to be a wife and a mother.

    Most days I am happy and confident in that answer, but for some reason today I’ve been struggling with it.

    Thank you for reminding me that “raising a child to the Lord is the most I could ever ask from life.”

  12. Reply

    Azúcar

    February 27, 2010

    It was a lovely lunch. And you are lovely. And so is everyone else.

  13. Reply

    Malisa

    February 27, 2010

    This was a beautiful touching post.

  14. Reply

    ginger

    February 27, 2010

    Thank you for this beautiful post. I feel as you do, that even when my children are all in school, full time mothering is what I am supposed to do. I have felt guilty for that choice on occasion… but this reminded me that we each have our own path in life that God helps us to know.
    I hope you don’t mind, but I will be sharing this with many friends.

  15. Reply

    Tracy

    February 27, 2010

    Tears from the poem. Happiness for you, my friend. Amazing post.
    xoxo,t

  16. Reply

    jennie w.

    February 27, 2010

    All that and I barely was able to talk to you! Thank you for summing it up for me. As a mom of six I know exactly how you feel.

  17. Reply

    Mathmom and family

    February 27, 2010

    Thanks yet again for being exactly what I need, exactly when I need it. In my new role as full time mom, I have found myself apologizing for not having an official title outside of the house. The truth is, for me, I really don’t need anything more. The shame I’m imagining is from the potential judgment of others. It’s time to let that go now and to do God’s work.

  18. Reply

    seven smiles

    February 27, 2010

    Me too.
    And sometimes I feel like I need to apologize for “not producing more”, but I stop myself. I know where I need to be, too. I know it’s a very individual decision–but I am certain of mine. I love to hear other mothers who feel the same. Thanks.

  19. Reply

    ashli

    February 27, 2010

    what a lovely post….i want the same perspective in 10 years! love you.

    p.s. please let me trim your hair!;)

  20. Reply

    Sharlee

    February 27, 2010

    I love you, Michelle!

  21. Reply

    Sue

    February 27, 2010

    I agree. As far as I’m concerned, there really isn’t anything more…not one thing more important, more fulfilling, or more rewarding.

    And you can still write/photograph at home. And publish. And whatever else you want to do with all those amazing talents of yours.

    Besides, there’s plenty of time for graduate school. You are young, Michelle! I have a friend who just started graduate school at 50. And another who began in her 60’s.

    Lots of time. Lots of wonderful possibilities.

    =)

  22. Reply

    Denise

    February 27, 2010

    I only have five children, not six. And maybe they are the five easiest kids in the world, or maybe not — maybe I have one child who is as hard as the other four put together and that’s a trial in and of itself. But either way, I think the take away for me here is: that we need to be supportive of one another. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Although she and I may have disagreed from time to time on politics, I do believe that women need each other. Your choice to be entirely focused on motherhood is clearly the right choice for you, and you need the support of your womenfolk in that choice. Similarly, those who seek educational or other pursuits while still being dedicated and noble mothers, also need support from their womenfolk. We need each other.

  23. Reply

    Jill

    February 28, 2010

    I so so SO needed this today and yesterday and the day before that. Sometimes being a mother is so hard, so isolating. And yet, I know it’s the right thing, the best thing for me and mine.

    Thank you for the reminder.

  24. Reply

    Rachelle

    February 28, 2010

    I am weeping for the mom who lost her son. I love the commitment you have to your children.

  25. Reply

    Mitchell Family

    February 28, 2010

    Michelle, I’m so proud to be your sister.

  26. Reply

    Glazier5

    February 28, 2010

    Thanks Michelle! Definitely a topic that has been mulling around in my brain. Small world too…Melissa is a first cousin to Nate. Do you mind if I share your link with my in-laws?

  27. Reply

    Alisa

    February 28, 2010

    Amen…I completely feel the same and please know you will be blessed for “being there.”

  28. Reply

    Jennk

    February 28, 2010

    You are an inspiration. Raising your beautiful family is so important and sharing your thoughts with us is inspirational on so many levels. Thank you, Michelle.

  29. Reply

    Adri

    February 28, 2010

    Michelle…so, so beautifully said. Thank you.

  30. Reply

    m_and_m

    March 2, 2010

    Powerful. The importance of motherhood cannot be overstated — neither can the importance of personal revelation. I’m consistently amazed at how different everyone’s journeys can be, and how essential it is to not look side-to-side, but up to find our answers.

    I LOVE hearing from other women who know what they are doing is RIGHT. What an amazing instrument you will be for God because you are doing what you know to be right.

    I love and admire you for it, friend, and the power and influence you have flows in your words. Your children already do call you blessed, but OH — the generations who will also call you blessed as well!

    (Nevermind the influence you have on others through your creative gifts that you share here.)

    love and hugs.

  31. Reply

    Kevin

    March 2, 2010

    amen, amen and amen. love you

  32. Reply

    Stepper the Mighty

    March 2, 2010

    Thank you.

  33. Reply

    Melissa

    March 4, 2010

    This is the Melissa of the poem and the son. If only we could all sit crossed-legged on the floor and learn from each other’s stories . . .

    Michelle, I’m so stirred by your poignant words and by your response to my words, those written as well as those wept. I’m grateful, too, that God’s graceful hands nudged us toward each other that Sunday morning. I saw it happening. I now see why.

    For us all: those same graceful hands are quietly cupped beneath every heap of rubble we might find ourselves buried in. There’s steady refuge there. We can fully trust those hands with our lives. Marvel: He trusts us with the lives of His children.

  34. Reply

    Sue

    July 20, 2010

    Wow. That is quite a poem she wrote. I had not read it.

    Thanks.

    =)

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